Challenges Ahead and a Good Year

To our greater team,

Thanks so much to all of you for your contribution to protecting public health and the environment from toxic chemicals in consumer products. Some challenges of 2008 and accomplishments of 2007 follow:

Challenges: It is all about candles.

Candle fires, which are the cause of an estimated 130 deaths annually in the US and diminishing, are a major reason for new open flame regulations which will lead to toxic chemicals and materials in many consumer products. In the US, 90% of candles are now fire safe and unlikely to cause fires.**

Candle safe materials often cannot be recycled, combust to form dioxins and furans, and pose a threat to human and animal neurological and reproductive health and the environment.

I. New International Open Flame Retardant Standard for All Electronic Enclosures
Worldwide electronics industry standard IEC 62368 would require all plastic enclosures for electronic products such as printers, computers, video cameras, TVs to resist an open flame such as a candle from the outside. All plastic doesn’t require this level of FR protection. Design strategy can be used instead to minimize flammability and allow materials to be nontoxic and recyclable at end of life
This international standard is being voted in secret on until the end of April and was believed almost certain to pass. We are working to change that.

III California TB604 Bed Clothing Flammability Standard —
A rigorous open flame bed clothing flammability standard which would lead to inherent fibers (composed of toxic monomers) or very high levels of fire retardant chemicals in filled bed clothing including pillows, comforters, mattress pads.
The California Bureau of Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation is moving forward to issue a rule to implement this standard in the next months. One again a major motivation is to prevent candle fires.
CPSC is working on a similar bed clothing standard for the entire country

III CPSC National Furniture Flammability Standard Drafts
2007: It is great news that based on health and environmental concerns, the CPSC staff has just submitted a new national flammability standard draft that does not include an open flame requirement and can be met without fire retardant chemicals in foam. However toxic fire retardant chemicals such as decaBDE and hexabromocyclododecane could still be used in fabric.

Chemicals and materials in consumer products need to be shown to be safe before use. Please let me know if you are interested in working with us on any of the three projects above to make sure that only safe materials are used to meet the three standards above.

Accomplishments of 2007:

1. Here’s a letter from an industry colleague about our contribution to the new furniture flammability standard for the entire US (except California ) which would not have an open flame requirement. The previous open flame draft standard would have led to higher levels of toxic fire retardants than are currently used to meet the California standard.

You got the ultimate New Year’s gift from the CPSC.

Commissioner Moore issued a statement on December 28 in complete support of the staff recommendatio
He cited concerns about public exposure to FR materials that lack complete safety info and data. ….The two comissioners can pass the standard if they vote unanomously.

This is a huge accomplishment. Congratulations! You are largely responsible for the change in staff position.

2. AB706, California legislation to ban brominated and chlorinated FR chemicals from furniture and bed clothing unless the manufacturer can provide safety information, has a good chance of passing the Senate and being signed into law by the governor in 2008.

Special thanks to Mary Brune and MOMS(Making Our Milk Safe); Russell Long and Sara Schedler and Friends of the Earth, Bart Broome and Mark Leno, Joan Blades and Moms Rising; and Andrew McGuire, our brilliant core team, and also Brian Reich of the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University.

Please let me know if you would prefer to receive more or less of these messages and of other colleagues and friends who might like to receive them in 2008.

Happy New Year,
just back in the US after leading a great trek in Nepal

** 90% of candles now manufactured in the US pledge to meet CPSC’s voluntary standards, which make candles: 1) have lower flame height, 2) not ignite materials that land around the wick, 3) not ignite what the candle is sitting on when they burn down, 4) and not tip over easily.

You can view photos and text from Arlene’s new book Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life at

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